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Take Care: the importance of self-care

Self-care is essential in the maintenance of both mental and physical health.  When we’re especially busy, taking time for self-care can seem selfish or unnecessary, but taking even 15 to 20 minutes a day to recharge and do something for you can leave you replenished and lead to overall higher energy and self-esteem.

Self-care is a broad, all-encompassing term that can be applied to any healthy behavior that a person enjoys and that leads to the replenishment of energy and overall well-being.  While it sounds simple, it is important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy practices in regard to self-care. Some may turn to drugs, alcohol, overeating or risky behavior in order to cope with stress.  These behaviors lead to a temporary relief, while practices like mindfulness, exercise or time with friends can create  stronger and more lasting stress relief.

Websites promoting healthy lifestyles like Very Well Mind and Happy Body Formula suggest self-care routines like taking long baths, disconnecting from technology and spending time with pets.  While these are all effective suggestions, it can often be hard to access these resources with communal bathrooms, dorm-living and copious amounts of school work getting in the way.  For college students, self-care can sometimes be a little more challenging.

West Chester University’s Community Mental Health Services director Dr. Leanne Valentine shares, “Sleep is huge [in regards to self-care] we get way too many students in here who don’t get enough sleep and another thing that the research shows that’s super important is relationships.  Anything you can do to support people having relationships and being kind is helpful.”

It is common for college students to hear others boasting of all-nighters, but according to Vista College, college students have repeatedly won being the most sleep-deprived demographic.  Both Dr. Valentine and WCU’s Counseling Center counselor Elizabeth Carper, LPC agree that sleep, diet and exercise are the three most important aspects of self-care.

Another, and less emphasized, effective method of self-care is spending time with friends and family who are supportive and bring you up.  According to College Magazine, one of the best ways to recharge and take care of yourself is surrounding yourself with people who encourage you.  College Magazine says, “if a friend contributes more than 50 percent positivity to your life, then your relationship is a winning percentage.”

Junior Ashley Cmar puts this into practice and considers strong relationships her most effective form of self-care practice. When asked the most helpful mechanism for dealing with stress during the semester she shares, “Definitely hanging out with my roommates. We are very close, and we work well together.  We really help each other out when we’re stressed, especially with school since we’re all the same major.”

Self-care is something that should be considered a necessity for a healthy mind and body. Without replenishing ourselves, it can be hard to give our best to others in return. “Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners,” says William Shakespeare.

This is article two in a recurring column guiding students through the navigation of mental health on college campuses. According to CollegeStats, 50 percent of students rate their mental health as below average or poor, and up to 80 percent of college students share that they feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities. This column aims to assist students in their pursuit of emotional growth.

Julianna Eckman is fourth-year majoring in English with minors in journalism and psychology. JE848886@wcupa.edu

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